SCHINNEN, Netherlands -- "Stand by for a conference call" crackled the instructions over phone lines to U.S. Army Garrison Schinnen key personnel as they quickly alerted to an unknown (simulated) chemical leak, then ordered to report to the garrison's Emergency Operations Center at 6:15 p.m., June 22.

Within minutes, Dutch emergency services responded to investigate the leak and treat casualties at the scene. Within the hour, Schinnen members were orchestrating a response to this simulated crisis, part of an annual training requirement to ensure the garrison's force protection posture is trained and ready.

In the hour that follows a crisis response, USAG Schinnen's EOC accounts for personnel, takes action to protect life and property, and begins a public a communications effort to alert, inform and reassure.

Bystanders on the garrison are led to shelter and apprised of the situation to avert a panic. Liaisons are established with the town of Schinnen to reach local media. The Army Community Service establishes a Casualty Collections Center to ensure people were accounted and given proper care before being released. The ACS was joined by 470th Air Force Wing health professionals from the NATO Air Base in Geilenkirchen, Germany, who formed a Traumatic Stress Response Team to screen casualties for potential traumatic stress injuries.

A single phone call to the military police can put all these processes in motion to protect the force.

"Force protection exercises focus on just that - how to protect the force. When incidents occur, we implement plans to minimize the negative impacts they can have and take action to return to a safe state of readiness as soon as possible," said Randy Garfield, USAG Schinnen's Chief of Plans and Exercises.

USAG Schinnen, the only U.S. Army garrison in the Netherlands, relies on emergency services from the neraby Dutch community. This exercise is the culmination of planning meetings and procedural details ironed out over the 40 years tha tthe base has had a presence in the town of Schinnen.

Ann Cooper, USAG Schinnen's ACS Exceptional Family Member Program manager, served as an escort during the exercise to ensure casualties from the scene were safely led from the Casualty Collection Point to the Traumatic Stress Response Team . "ACS personnel served in different roles than the last exercise, which was good. You never know when something may happen and if we all become familiar with two or more roles - that's even better," Cooper said.

Crisis response experts from U.S. Army Europe were on hand to observe USAG Schinnen's annual emergency response exercise. The scenario started as an unknown chemical leak with minor casualties and evolved to challenge USAG Schinnen and Dutch first responders to locate the source of a simulated natural gas leak and evacuate personnel while the emergency operations center managed a flow of information over phones, radios, email and messenger.

Had there been a real emergency, the community would have been alerted through Dutch media, the American Forces Network, the Canadian Forces Network or by direct email from USAG Schinnen. The radio frequencies to tune in are: L1 (Dutch) 95.3 or 100.3 FM; AFN 89.2 FM; CFN 96.9 or 99.7 FM.

During a crisis, unless people in an area that is obviously affected, said garrison leadership, it's often best to stay in place and seek out reliable information before taking action. And they can learn more about personal and family preparedness by going to Ready Army resources online. Start your web search with the link in the upper right-hand box.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16